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A letter from Gordon and Dorothy Gartrell serving in Brazil
may 2015 - our new assignment
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him... Romans 15:13
We arrived in Governador Mangabeira, in the state of Bahia, in late April. It is a town of 20,000 people. The town is 80 miles from Salvador, which is the state capital and has 3.9 million inhabitants.
We had spent six months in Decatur, Ga., on our Interpretation Assignment (IA). Our things were stored here. Our move was very smooth and peaceful. There were some difficulties, such as things lost in the move, but with our trust in the Lord, we handled them very peacefully. Our bedrooms and kitchen are smaller than in our previous houses, so it will take a while to know where to put things, etc. The people have welcomed us wonderfully. We will continue to use our email address email@example.com. You can contact us via Skype, also.Continue reading
A letter from Michael and Rachel Ludwig serving in Niger
june 2015 - not settling for unripe fruit
Have you ever bought bananas that were too green, only to find they’re so grainy and chalky you don’t try to eat them until they’ve already gone bad? This isn’t a problem people experience much in Niger. We’ve watched over and over as kids from our neighborhood try to pick the unripe fruit off the trees in our yard. Even if we’re standing right there telling them the fruit isn’t ready yet and needs to grow longer, they still ask and physically pretend to make the motions of picking it every day. A taste of unripe fruit is special enough that there’s no need to wait around for fruit to turn yellow and juicy.Continue reading
A letter from Ruth Brown serving in the Democratic Republic of Congo
june 2015 - annual ministry update 2014
Annual Ministry Update for 2014
from Ruth Brown, Specialist for Sustainable Agriculture & Community Development
Kananga, West Kasai, Democratic Republic of Congo
The year 2014 brings to mind images of children: street children in the Kasai, children working in the mines, and the hundreds of malnourished children in Kananga, the capital city of West Kasai.
A favorite memory is of 23 children sitting in the seats of honor at the opening ceremony for the Ditekemena (“Hope”) Program, the Presbyterian Church of Congo’s program to re-establish street children with their families. Five of the children had disabilities, four boys being lame and one girl nearly completely deaf. At this opening ceremony prayers filled the pavilion, prayers led by both church and civic leaders, working together to improve the lives of these children. This program was initiated with a grant award from Presbyterian Women’s 2013 Thank Offering.Continue reading
A letter from Sharon Bryant serving in Thailand
june 2015 - an expanding ministry
Dear Friends in Christ,
There is joy in my heart as I watch Ken and Martha Anderson and Esther Kim, our three new mission workers with Christian Volunteers in Thailand (CVT), settle into their new homes and begin work here in Thailand. I am grateful to have them. In past letters I have shared with you how the political upheaval in Thailand scared away a number of prospective volunteers. After the coup d’etat last May, we received only two new CVT mission workers last fall and three this spring, while nine CVT mission workers completed their terms of service and returned home. But the interim government in Thailand has worked hard to restore order and keep things calm, and I am delighted to report that we will receive 11 new CVT mission workers over the next six months!Continue reading
A letter from Cindy Corell serving in Haiti
june 2015 - so many surprises!
We held hands around a small table while Andre Cèus prayed. The only light in the dirt-floored room came from cell phones, their tiny lamps pointed this way and that. The smell of the steaming hot bread soup wafted about—naturally spiced with peppers and onions that grow in gardens here. The scent mixed with sweat and what remained of the clean perfume of soap on our skin. Like most days in Haiti, by evening it had seemed so long.
It was cool, there in the high mountain community, a pleasant difference from the usual heat and humidity.
“Mèsi, Seyè,” Thank you, Lord. I recognized a few more words of the prayer, thanking Him for our safe activities, for our time together, and, of course, for the soup we would spoon on flat plates, its seasoned broth and chunks of bread threatening to drip from the sides.Continue reading
A letter from Christi Boyd, serving in Central Africa, based in the Democratic Republic of Congo
june 2015 - stories of heartbreak and hope
I first met Sifa last year February at Kyeshero Hospital in Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu in east Congo. It was my first time to visit this beautiful but troubled part of the country. I had come to learn about ecumenical initiatives by women of the Church of Christ in Congo (ECC), who walk alongside survivors of the pervasive sexual violence for which this area has become so dreadfully notorious. Rev. Berthe Nzeba, a Presbyterian pastor and the national general secretary of the ECC women, was my travel companion.Continue reading
A letter from Jan Heckler serving in Madagascar
spring 2015 - an easter to remember
After flying from Atlanta, I finally arrived back in Antananarivo from a six-month hiatus for itineration in the U.S. During ‘Interpretation Assignment’ mission co-workers for the PC(USA) visit congregations and presbyteries to update supporters about our work and to make our missional involvement with the PC(USA)’s partner churches more truly a shared partnership. On the flight back we stopped only once to change planes at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, but still it took 28 hours to travel this 9,800-mile trip door-to-door. Fortunately for me, my colleague and friend Pastor Mamisoa and her husband Lala were at Ivato airport to meet me even though it was nearly 1:30 a.m. local time before I was able to finally clear customs and join them.Continue reading
A letter from the Adams Maldonado Family serving in Mexico
June 2015 - Blessings Out of Suffering
“What do you think about when you are suffering?”
For the Good Friday service the leaders of Iglesia Presbiteriana Lirio de los Valles (Lily of the Valley Presbyterian Church) had asked seven persons from the congregation to give a reflection on one of the seven last “words” of Jesus. Among those asked to provide leadership for this solemn service were two children—one being Anna Flor, our 11-year old daughter. The “word” that she was given was Jesus’ words to his mother and beloved disciple from the cross: “Dear woman, here is your son. . . . Here is your mother.”
Anna Flor looked out at the congregation—a congregation that has experienced a tremendous amount of suffering: the sickness and subsequent death of Pastor Rodolfo in December; the loss of leaders; broken relationships; a large percentage of the congregation far from their homelands and in “economic exile” in Agua Prieta, where they seek to respond to the question “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” Anna Flor looked out at them and asked, “What do you think about when you are suffering?”Continue reading
A letter from Bernie and Farsijana Adeney-Risakotta serving in Indonesia
June 2015 - Caring for the Environment
Dear Family, Friends and Colleagues,
The villagers of Gowok, in Java, Indonesia, held a meeting in their mosque to prepare for Earth Day. The men prepared a huge tent to protect people from sun or rain, and a stage for a gamelan percussion orchestra, dancers, a shadow puppet show, and a video screen. The women planned the menu: good, tasty, healthy food, served on banana leaves without plastic. They planned the Earth Day events with Farsijana, PC(USA) mission co-worker and the founder of Griya Jati Rasa (House of Authentic Sense, HAS), an organization for empowering villagers. Gowok is a model village for environmental consciousness. This village created a garbage bank in 2012, where garbage is sorted and recycled. Poor families make about $120 per year by sorting their garbage and taking it to the garbage bank. They also sell creative items made from garbage, like bags, purses and wall hangings.
Gowok is an all-Muslim village. The people believe a true Muslim believer takes care of the earth. Farsijana empowers Muslim and Christian staff of HAS to creatively raise consciousness about preserving God’s creation. Muslim villagers learn that Christians also care about the environment and will work with them for common goals. Together they planned creative performances on Earth Day to raise consciousness about the perilous state of the planet.
A letter from John McCall serving in Taiwan
June 2015 - Graduation Retreat
Tonight the graduating students at Taiwan Seminary will host the teachers for dinner at a seafood restaurant. This is the opportunity for the students to thank their teachers before they graduate tomorrow.
Last week, along with two other colleagues at the seminary, I hosted a retreat for these graduates. This is the first time we have held a retreat just before graduation, and it was wonderful. Last semester I taught this class of students, and over the semester five different couples in this class gave birth. It became humorous each week when I would ask where a particular student was and the reply was always the same: she's in the hospital giving birth or he is with his wife who is giving birth. These students are really helping a declining Taiwanese birthrate. One student would bring her baby to class. These babies, along with other children of students, joined us for the retreat.
In this fast-paced, concrete jungle, I try to plan retreats that give folks the opportunity to encounter God in a variety of settings. The retreat center we used is not far from Taipei but is located on a beautiful river. The meeting room has huge glass windows, so you feel like you are outside. As the students arrived with their spouses and children and with other classmates, you could feel them slowly decompress. Several students led us in singing, and then we divided into small groups to look at the beginning of Jesus' ministry. In about a month most of these students will begin their ministries in churches all over Taiwan.Continue reading
A letter from John and Gwenda Fletcher serving in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
June 2015 - Life-Changing Operations
When the Congolese Presbyterian Church began, with the support of a grant from Presbyterian Women, a program to reintegrate 23 street children into their families of origin it stepped out in faith, not quite sure of the impact this fledgling program would make on the lives of these marginalized, ostracized children. Not only has the Ditekemena (“Hope”) program provided the kids a safe environment to live in, three meals a day, clothing, schooling and a chance to learn about God’s love, but also they are receiving, most for the first time in their lives, needed medical care. Five of the children at Ditekemena have disabilities—one boy has cerebral palsy, one girl has a hearing impairment, and three boys have mobility challenges. Those three boys, Kabuika, Bulela and Mukendi have recently been on the receiving end of life-changing surgery by a world-class orthopedic specialist.
Mukendi came into the program using a crutch because his right knee was fused at an awkward angle and this affected his walking ability. Bulela has what was later determined to be fibrous dysplasia, resulting in severely arced thighbones. And Kabuika was bent nearly in two because of a spinal deformity caused by neurofibromatosis. When the boys’ severe orthopedic problems were identified it became clear they would require the skills of a specially trained orthopedic surgeon.Continue reading
A letter from Jenny Koball serving in Peru
June 2015 - A Fair Trade Success
Hidivia stood in the doorway of the office manager and cried. Day after day, week after week, month after month, with nary a coin in her pocket, walking from house to house to gain support from the community, she had finally brought to the branch office of the light company her petition to have electricity installed in her neighborhood. And once again she was denied.
Hidivia arrived in the dusty hills of Chorrillos, a district in the southern part of the mega-metropolis of Lima, nearly 15 years ago. With her family in tow, she established roots in the San Genaro community, known as a “human settlement” because it was occupied by “squatters.” She, like her neighbors, did not have title to the land they were building a home on, but no one seemed to care. It was barren land. Undeveloped land. A desert. There were no basic services (water, sewage, electricity). There were no roads. There were not even steps to the top of the steep hills where she and her family would begin building their home out of scrap wood and metal on top of sandy soil. And yet, this is exactly where she wanted to be—in Lima, and closer to “opportunity” for her and her family.Continue reading
A letter from Nadia Ayoub serving in Ukraine
June 2015 - A Roma Cook-out
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord…. For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations (Isaiah 61:10a, 11).
Dear Friends and Families,
Indeed I thank God for he is with us and able to cause his righteousness and praise to spring up before all nations. Thank you all—because of your prayers and encouragements and financial support for me and the Roma mission I am able to see and tell you what God has been doing among the Roma in the Peterfolvo area in Karpatalja Ukraine.
Elemer Barta, the new helper, is now working in full capacity among the Roma families, adults and children, and the Lord is empowering his ministry. By God’s grace with Elemer I have been able to do many new things that were not possible before.Continue reading
A letter from Aziz Sadaghiani serving in Germany
May 1015 - Ministering to Refugees
In the last weeks and months there have been reports in the media about a large number of refugees and asylum seekers risking their lives to escape the violence, war and horrific situations in many regions in the Middle East and Northern Africa. Often these refugees and asylum seekers travel in overcrowded and dilapidated boats crossing the Mediterranean Ocean to reach Europe. Leaving behind their loved ones, they risk their lives in the hope for a better life for themselves and their families.
The latest data suggests that Germany received twice the number of asylum applications in 2014 of any other country in Europe. In 2014 Germany had 202,815 people applying for asylum, which is 60 percent higher than the previous year (Die Zeit, 14 January 2015). This led to many schools, hotels and other buildings being converted so that refugees could be accommodated in Germany.Continue reading
A letter from Esther Wakeman serving in Thailand
April-June 2015 - A Five-Year Vision
Here at Payap University in Chiang Mai, Thailand, like many colleges and universities around the world, our greatest challenge is recruiting students. Fifteen years ago we had 9,000 students. Now we have 4,500. School starts in August and we are working hard hoping to recruit 1,200 new students. Competition is fierce. Payap’s president, Dr. Sompan Wongdee, tries to come to our morning staff worship at least once a week. She often plays the piano for our opening hymn. Probably not something most university presidents do. One morning she arrived at worship before anyone else (she values being on time, which is a bit unusual around here), and she opened the Bible randomly. She began reading from Ezekiel 36:8-11:
But you, O mountains of Israel, shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to my people Israel, for they will soon come home. For behold, I am for you, and I will turn to you, and you shall be tilled and sown. And I will multiply people on you, the whole house of Israel, all of it. The cities shall be inhabited and the waste places rebuilt. And I will multiply on you man and beast, and they shall multiply and be fruitful. And I will cause you to be inhabited as in your former times, and will do more good to you than ever before. Then you will know that I am the Lord.Continue reading
A letter from Jim and Jodi McGill serving in Malawi
June 2015 - Interpretation Assignment
Dear Friends and family,
We will be leaving Mzuzu toward the end of June 2015 and arriving in Decatur, Ga., for a year of interpretation assignment. As always, moving is a multifaceted phenomenon. For all of us there is the personal and emotional angst of leaving friends. For Jim it is hard to leave the work he is doing, not because it won’t continue without him but because he will miss being part of the team as they progress and sharing the many learning opportunities. For Jodi she will miss hearing “Teacher, teacher” from the 40+ 2-6-year-olds in her Sunday school class.
Simultaneously each of us has something we are looking forward to: having conversations and worship together with congregations, seeing family and friends, renewing personal and professional connections, being able to take part in school and extracurricular activities that are not available here, and per all of our children—going to a drive-thru fast-food chain.Continue reading
A letter from Richard and Debbie Welch serving in Guatemala
Summer 2015 - Transformation Stories from the road
Dear Friends and Partners in Mission,
“Richard and Debbi . . . Do you have to raise your own support in order to do your work? Just what does the process for financing of your mission look like?”
From the middle of March until the middle of May we were in the U.S., traveling to different places, visiting friends, family, congregations, presbyteries, and supporters, sharing firsthand the stories of transformation, hope, and faith that have touched our lives as we’ve lived out our calling in Guatemala. As we traveled this question above would regularly come up. Talking about one’s personal work-related finances is not something we were brought up to do. Many of us were taught that talking about money was rude, insensitive, and something that makes others uncomfortable.
There are several reasons beyond initial curiosity that led to our regularly being asked questions about the financing of our work. Many have heard about the recent announcement of a shortfall in funding that could result in the recalling of many mission co-workers from around the world.Continue reading
A letter from Doug Baker serving in Northern Ireland
June - “He gets it!”
I was embarrassed when Maurice introduced me!
For several years I have been teaching a short module on Handling Conflict to ministerial students at the Church of Ireland Theological Institute in Dublin. It is one part of their Leadership course coordinated by the principal, Maurice Elliott. He and I have crossed paths in various places of his ministry over the past 15 years. Our relationship is an example of mutual mission. Along the way he has called upon me for help, opened doors for me to work with a variety of groups, and taught me lessons about costly pastoral leadership. We have become friends who share a commitment to promoting a ministry of reconciliation both within the church and by the church in wider society.
Maurice always comes to the first session of the module I teach in order to introduce me to the class. This spring when he did so he simply said, “I think the best way to describe Doug is that he is a gift from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to the Irish churches.” I blushed. Such flattery! And then I realized he wasn’t talking about my gifts or giftedness or anything of the sort. He was talking about your generosity in making me available to be used in the ways and places where Maurice appreciates my involvement.Continue reading
A letter from Leisa Wagstaff in South Sudan
June 2015 - Educating in Hope
Partners in Mission, greetings once again.
I would be remiss if I began this letter without first thanking God for each of you. The ways you continue to embrace missions has allowed hundreds of PC(USA) mission co-workers to minister to millions of people around the world, including “the least of these” here in South Sudan. Genuine gratitude flows from my core to you and I am heartened in my belief that with your continued partnership we can bring a semblance of hope toward peace and prosperity to a suffering country in spite of the on-again-off-again peace talks and continuing fighting. My South Sudanese colleagues’ determination to not give up as well as to stay committed to serving the Church is encouraged by each of you. The synod leadership always remarks that they could not have come this far without the companionship of the PC(USA) in general and the presence of its mission personnel in particular. I cannot count the many moments of just being present with them as they poured out their fears, heart wounds, and hopes for something better. Thank you in all of the 60-plus languages spoken by the South Sudanese.Continue reading
A letter from Dustin Ellington serving in Zambia
June 2015 - Young Pastors, Big Challenges
From an American perspective it may seem odd that our graduating students here at Justo Mwale University finish their coursework in November, begin serving a congregation, and then come back in May to graduate. For Sherri and me, though, the timing is a blessing because it affords us a wonderful chance to connect with graduates who have been away ministering for several months.
On May 9 we had our first graduation ceremony under our institution’s new name, Justo Mwale University. The school has transitioned from Justo Mwale Theological College to what Zambia’s government calls a “university college,” to a full university. We are now a (small) university. Our main work is still to prepare people to become pastors in countries throughout Southern Africa, but Justo Mwale has expanded to train lots of school teachers through distance and semi-residential education in order to meet a need for more highly trained teachers in Zambia and also to help the university be financially sustained through the tuition it receives. The graduation was a festive occasion, with 14 students graduating from our main full-time Bachelor of Theology program, and another 123 graduates of short-term distance and semi-residential programs.Continue reading
A letter from Nancy Collins serving as Regional Liaison for East Central Africa, based in Zambia
Dear Family and Friends,
“I am Anna, 11 years old, in grade 2 at CCAP [Church of Central Africa Presbyterian] Mtendere Community School, Lusaka, Zambia. I started my grade 2 in 2009 through the help of the school caregivers who went around in our compound. I am an only child staying with my mother and grandmother in a rented one-room house. My father died when I was very young. My mother and I are living positive with HIV/AIDS, and we are on ARVs at the Mtendere clinic. Our source of living is through my elderly grandmother, who does piecework [and] sweeps the surroundings of the bars at the Mtendere market. When mother feels a bit well, she goes around to people’s homes, washing clothes in order to manage to pay rent and buy food. Many times we have one meal a day. My school requirements come from the school. Last term I was second in a class of 50 pupils. I like school because I meet friends and teachers, and we play netball. I like center position. When I grow up I want to be a teacher so I can come and help orphans and vulnerable children in Zambia.”Continue reading
A letter from Ellen Smith serving in Germany/Russia
June 2015 - A Visit to L’Arche
Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
We have had an extraordinary May, and I want you to know what you have been a part of, because it is very clear to me that you are present in all of our engagements with our brothers and sisters in Russia.
In February Father Vladimir asked me to help him find some books. He sent me a pretty impressive list, all on topics of Christian ethics and Christian witness. These are not books translated into Russian, but another book had fallen into his hands that had been translated—Living Gently in a Violent World: the Prophetic Witness of Weakness, by Stanley Hauerwas and Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche, an organization of communities across the globe committed to accompanying people with intellectual disabilities. While looking for the other books, I got a copy of Living Gently so we might be able to talk about it. Well, one thing leads to another, and our conversations led to a plan. While the plan included visits to ministry sites in Germany, the primary goal was visiting L’Arche in Trosly-Breuil, France, to meet Jean Vanier.Continue reading
Letter from Rebecca Lawson serving in the Philippines
May 25, 2015 - Mary Jane Veloso’s story
Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet; but he shouted even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Luke 18:39
As mission workers we often talk about being called by God into lives of mission service; however, as a disciple of Christ, my sense of calling comes as much from being summoned by those in need. In the second week of April I experienced this summons again—Celia and Cesar Veloso cried out for mercy on behalf of their daughter Mary Jane Veloso, facing execution in Indonesia.
Migrante International, a partner migrant organization, had been arranging every possible opportunity for Mary Jane’s family to speak about how Mary Jane was recruited by family friend Maria Cristina Sergio and duped into unknowingly carrying heroin in a suitcase gifted to her. Mary Jane, who paid money to Sergio as a placement fee for employment as a domestic worker (house servant) in Malaysia, ended up detained in Indonesia in 2010, and that same year she was convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to death by firing squad.Continue reading
A letter from Janet Guyer serving as regional facilitator for women and children’s ministries in English-speaking Africa, based in Malawi
May 2015 - A New Home and Ministry
A few weeks ago I woke up on a plane flying along the east coast of Africa. Looking out the window, I saw a beautiful sunrise, as if God had taken a red-orange paintbrush and painted one broad streak across the horizon. It reminded me of the first time I came to Africa in 2001 for a meeting. Then I was going somewhere new and exciting. Now I was joyfully coming home to Malawi after taking personal leave to help my parents move out of their home of almost 20 years. Dad is now happily settled into the Assisted Living section of the same facility where Mom has been in the Skilled Nursing section for the past couple years. Ndiyamika.
Ndiyamika, ‘I am grateful.’ This is one of my favorite words in Chichewa, the national language of Malawi. The months since moving here have been about as challenging as any I have known. Seven months without a permanent home took a higher toll than I expected. But ndiyamika, I am writing to you from the office of my new home in Lilongwe. It’s a great house for welcoming friends and for being at home in. I also have new addition to the ‘family,’ a ginger cat named Ginger.Continue reading
Thank You and Your Family for serving God by taking His word so far from Your Home.
God is doing his work and using us a tools in other nations.during my working here in Athens i observed that there are many oppertunities to share the Gospel massage with other those do not know Jesus and we can bring them to Jesus Christ.Please prayer for me that i'm a very littel to that God is using me here in Athens Greece. God bless you.